So, I have been doing these individual country pages for all the countries I’ve blogged about, which involves doing searches through all my post, and I realised that since being on Word Press, over 18 months now, I have NEVER written a post on Poland. This surprised me because I really enjoyed my time in Poland and think the country has heaps to offer the visitor.
I went there twice in 2004, visiting Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw (which is pronounced nothing like it is written) and Zakopane. I had a brilliant time, met some great people, saw some great things, did it all easily on a budget. What more does one need?
In Krakow there is a beautiful square, with beautiful churches and plenty of bars to spend your summer nights in. Not that far away is the castle, fun for an explore, and they also have the Wieliczka Salt Mine. A short local bus from the heart of Krakow takes you to the mine, where you’re taken through a tours of many levels, filled with salt statues and at the end of your tour, an underground café and gift shop.
And then there’s Auschwitz. Any visit to Poland is probably not complete without a visit to perhaps the best known Nazi camp from the Second World War. It’s a longer bus journey from Krakow. It’s been presented perfectly, solemnly, much of it maintained the way it was at the end of the war.
Wroclaw – pronounced Wrotslav (that’s about the best I can do) is a wonderful town with a stunning Mary Magdelene Church in all its gothic glory. Neither the church or the town are so well known to western tourists, but it is genuinely one of the more amazing churches I have visited, and I was able to climb up one of the towers for a view across the town. Wroclaw also houses this amazing Panorama Wraclawicka, a giant painting that goes 360 degrees in a circular room. Loads of tourists to see this one, a very unique experience featuring scenes of the Battle of Raclawice. The painting is 114 metres long!
Zakopane is in the mountains near the Slovak border, and in summer was wonderful for hiking. I stayed in the attic of a lady renting it out, and ate traditional Polish food at a ‘Milk Bar’ – of which there are thousands across Poland. Nothing like a Milk Bar in Australia, they are small restaurants that serve tasty, filling Polish food from a variety of soups and dumplings, to meat, vegies and more. The food is inexpensive and great value for money.
The capital Warsaw is a different sort of place to the others. It has a sort of Soviet grandeur still there from the communist times, highlighted by the ‘Palace of Science and Culture’, which is very much in the style of some of Stalin’s buildings in Moscow (Seven Sisters). From that building one gets an amazing look across a city that when I was there was in flux with a lot of construction happening.
There is an attractive and somewhat touristy old town in Warsaw, which has completely been rebuilt after the World War Two blitzkrieg. It’s great to walk around, take photos and there is a wonderful museum in the centre square which will occupy a few hours over many levels.
There are a number of parks, one I recommend visiting is Lazienki Park which is huge and has a beautiful palace (rebuilt 1975) on the water. A wonderful place to while away a half day or more. You’ll also be able to visit the home of the great composer Frederick Chopin too in Warsaw, there’s plenty to see and do.
And you know, Poland is a big country and I only went to four places. It’s holds so much more. I hope this is a decent introduction, and nice little tip of the big toe into the pool that is Poland. This Sunday’s Spotlight will be looking a little closer at Krakow. Take care and May the Journey Never End!